I'm tired of writing about my home renovation. I'm tired of living with it. And I'm sure you are tired of hearing about it. So this week, I'm beginning a series of posts about the new television season.
But of course, if something happens in the home that I just HAVE to write about, that will be here too.
"Literacy rates for 6 to 9 year-olds are alarming," said Karen Fowler at last month's PBS press preview. "One-third of 4th graders not reading on level."
Statistics show that if a child isn't reading on level by 4th grade, he or she may not achieve literacy by adulthood.
That's one of the reasons why the folks at The Electric Company -- designed to help bridge elementary kids' literacy gap -- were able to get the funding for an increased second season of shows. As of tomorrow, they will be on the air every day.
"As a nonprofit media education company, our mission is to get to as many kids as possible so as many viewing as possible is necessary," said Fowler.
Scott Cameron, director of education and research for Sesame Workshop (which produces the program) pointed out how today's Electric Company differs from its old incarnation from the 1970s.
For one thing, they employ three major platforms – television, the Internet and what PBS terms as "outreach" through schools, museums and other local entities throughout the country.
"The online component is pretty spectacular," Scott said. "We have a rich website with 10 educational games that touch on different styles of learning; beatbox tunes that teach phonics, example."
As of last month, the Electric Company site had achieved 4 million visits. "Many kids are coming five or more times, and we've only been on since mid January," Cameron said.
Additionally, as of August 1, Electric Company videos had been viewed 11 million times. And 16 episodes were streaming online.
The site also features special content, like behind the scenes stuff and outtakes. Cameron said these "are super fun for kids" because they are really interested in how the shows are put together. He said he's often surprised at how sophisticated today's kids are.
"I've been interviewing kids and 7-year-olds will ask me if something is green screen," he laughed. –
Part of the Electric Company curriculum is vocabulary, so each episode teaches five words related to a common theme.
""New research shows that kids in lower income homes come into kindergarten knowing fewer words than their contemporaries. If kids don’t know what words mean, at a certain point in the paragraph they are going to get discouraged," said Fowler.
"We know from a lot of literacy research that the best way to teach new words is to relate to what they know, so a narrative storyline stretched to 30 minutes helps kids to remember the new words," she said.
The robust PBS website also has a section for parents and educators, where you can access a program viewing guide and download printable activity sheets for both you and your kids.
Our humongous Los Angeles Unified School District finally starts the fall semester on Wednesday, and thanks to the monumental state budget deficit, we'll have fewer teachers and larger class sizes. This is just adding to the concerns we parents have had about the quality of our kids' education here. Most of us are on the lookout for positive tools we can use to supplement the lessons our children are getting in class. This looks like an excellent place to start.